Trust The Process

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Every writer, through trial and error, develops their own way of approaching their work. While some use the “leap and a net will appear” approach, I outline. I like to know where I’m going. An outline allows me to see the story, to work out plot or characterization problems. I want to catch them before I’m a hundred pages in. I also outline each chapter as I come to it. I do back stories for most of the characters. I create a back story for the story itself, so I know what went on before it began.

I did all that for Alex Bullied. But thirty rejections tells me that it may not be good enough. The agent who asked for the full manuscript and then rejected it did give me some suggestions. He felt the plot did not hold  his interest as he had hoped and that the secondary characters needed more strength. With the help of my critique group, I am editing. I see what I missed and am correcting it.

A woman in that critique group, Amy, recently scored an agent for her young adult novel. She has worked on her book for three years or so. She has workshopped it at conferences and writing retreats. She hired a professional editor. High five to Amy. What this tells me is that it is accomplishable. That it is not a pie in the sky dream to try for an agent. What it tells me is to keep trying.

I try to remember: there’s no glory in easy.

There are times when my brain and creativity go on hiatus. Weeks go by while I do everything except sit my tail bone down to do the rewrites that I know are going to improve my book. I do not believe in writer’s block. I know the ideas and words are there. I trust the process; knowing that I’ve never take a break that I didn’t benefit from in the end. It always results in a pay off that I would not have anticipated and could not force.

Eventually I get out of my own way. I let it come to me, I let it flow. I think that’s part of it. We get so uptight, worrying that we’ll never get it right, that we stand in our own way. Relax, enjoy the process. Trust the process, whatever yours is.

And stay tuned.

 

 

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The Elevator Pitch. Or Not.

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On my first day of the SCBWI writers’ conference, going up to my room, a woman joined me in the elevator. We went through the usual conference greeting:

Me: Here for the conferrence?

Her: Yes. You?

Me: Yes, third time. Very exciting.

Her: Are you a writer or an illustrator?

Me: Writer. Middle grade. You?

Her: I’m an agent.

My mind went into conniptions. An agent! In an elevator no less. My brain could not access my “elevator pitch.” All I could blurt out was, “I have a great book for you!”

Then the door opened on my floor. Flushed, smiling like an idiot, I slipped out.

Yes, I said that. What an impression I must have made. Not. I didn’t get her name and, thankfully, she didn’t get mine.

When I reached my room and went through my conference packet, I came upon a couple of pages I wish I’d read before talking to anyone — a series of questions and answers and The Do’s and Don’t’s of Conference Etiquette. Apparently the better way to approach an agent or editor is not to talk about your work, but to show an interest in theirs. You don’t need to tell them about your work, unless they ask. Instead, ask them questions that give you more insight into their personal tastes. It’s likely the conversation will turn to your work.

Makes sense. You ask what they look for, what appeals to them, and not only do they like that, given that most people are pitching their books at them, but you learn whether they’d be a good fit for your manuscript. It’s a win win.

A good suggestion for that quick summary of your project: Be able to answer these two questions in one sentence. 1) What do you do? 2) What are you working on? One sentence.

Although we go to these conferences with the hope of connecting with an agent or editor, through our desperation, anxiety and momentary lapse in judgement, we often sabotage our own efforts. We need to keep calm and remember these are people. Mostly they are very nice people who want us to succeed. When we succeed, they do, too.

We were strongly advised not to pitch to editors or agents in the hallways, at lunch, between sessions, in the elevator (oops), or anywhere in between. Again, and I guess this cannot be stressed too much, editors and agents appreciate questions that allow you to get to know them and their house/agency so that you can submit to or query them once the conference is over, if they are a potential fit.

That’s another great thing about attending conferences. Most of the agents and editors on the faculty will be open to submissions just because you were at the conference. It cracks the door open a bit.

The best thing, of course, is to go prepared and to not act like you’ve seen your favorite movie star when someone introduces themselves as an agent.

There’s so much to learn about this business. Stay tuned.